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NEWS | Dec. 6, 2021

VNG cyber protection battalion completes TF Echo mission

By Steven Stover | 780th Military Intelligence Brigade

The Virginia National Guard’s Fairfax-based 123rd Cyber Protection Battalion, 91st Cyber Brigade marked the end of their support for Task Force Echo with a transition of authority ceremony Dec. 1, 2021, at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland.
Col. Matthew Lennox, commander of the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade (Cyber), hosted the ceremony marking the completion of the fifth iteration of Task Force Echo and the beginning of the sixth with the transition from the 123rd to the 127th CPB.
TFE V consisted of more than 150 Army National Guard (ARNG) Soldiers, primarily assigned to the 123rd Cyber Protection Battalion (CPB), headquartered in Fairfax, Virginia, and the Soldiers hail from Illinois, Minnesota, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
TFE VI consists of ARNG Soldiers primarily assigned to the 127th CPB, headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, and the Soldiers hail from Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas.

According to Lt. Col. David Garner, commander of the 123rd CPB and TFE V, “Task Force Echo is an ARNG Task Force mobilized annually to engineer, install, operate, maintain, and defend critical network infrastructure and conduct cyberspace operations in support of U.S. Cyber Command and the Cyber National Mission Force.”

TFE is aligned under and operationally controlled the 780th MI Brigade and is administratively controlled by Army Cyber Command (ARCYBER). The mission is sourced from the 91st Cyber Brigade (Va.) and its five subordinate CPBs. TFE Rotations last for more than a year and each of the more than 60 TFE work roles have a unique training pipeline to prepare them for their mission requirements.

“Task Force Echo relies heavily on the diverse technical backgrounds endemic to the Soldiers of the National Guard,” said Maj. Nicholas Allen, S-3 (Operations), 123rd CPB and TFE V. “They bring extensive experience to the mission that can only be gained by working in defensive cyberspace, network infrastructure, computer programming, and other information technology positions throughout the private sector as well as the completion of the extensive training required to be a cyber warrior.”

“The annual TFE rotation allows for highly technical group of Soldiers to come in with a fresh set of eyes, thus leading to provide new ideas and innovation, and over the years have made continuous improvements to the infrastructure, security, and processes which adds great value to the 780th MI BDE and the JMOC (Joint Mission Operations Center),” added Col. Lennox.

Lt. Col. Garner also mentioned that TFE provides an opportunity for National Guard Soldiers to obtain the education and experience they need to get the Cyber Protection Team(s) to IOC (initial operating capacity) and FOC (fully operational capacity).

“Upon return to home station, the TFE Soldiers will possess an increased skill set and with hands-on experience,” said Lt. Col. Garner. “This provides the National Guard increased capability supporting federal missions and provides Governors and Adjutants General with additional capabilities to support state missions.”

Since August 15, 2017, more than 900 Army National Guard Soldiers have been assigned to the task force, working alongside the 780th to conduct cyberspace operations in support of USCYBERCOM and the CNMF.

The 91st Cyber Brigade is the ARNG’s first and only cyber brigade. Consisting of five battalions, five cybersecurity companies, five cyber warfare companies, and 11 cyber protection teams arrayed across more than 30 states.

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